While MacLeish was absorbing that advice, the fifth and sixth games pivoted on the play of the defensemen. "The Philadelphia defensemen are flat-footed," said Denis Ball, the jolly giant who is the No. 1 aide to Ranger boss Emile Francis. Indeed, except for rookie Jim Watson and Ashbee, the Flyers' regular defenders lack speed, mobility and puck-handling intelligence. "That hurts us at times because they can't get out of their own way," says Coach Fred Shero, "but they never let anyone stand around in front of Parent, and to me that's more important."
As the fifth game began, the Rangers crowded the Flyer defensemen whenever they touched the puck, double-teaming the corners and sealing off the normal escape routes. The strategy paid a prompt dividend as Stemkowski caught Moose Dupont out of position and beat Parent to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. New York continued to smother the Philadelphia defensemen, twice breaking two forwards out against a lone defender and twice breaking three forwards against a single defender. Fortunately for the Flyers, Parent either made the necessary saves or the Rangers mishandled the puck.
Between the first and second periods an alarmed Shero consulted Assistant Coach Mike Nykoluk, who sits in the press box, makes notes, diagrams plays and checking tactics and gives a report to Shero at the end of every period. The result was a game-saving strategy.
After listening to Nykoluk, Shero instructed the Flyer defensemen to dispose of the puck posthaste, and ordered the Flyer forwards to come back and help out. He told the forwards to hound the Ranger defensemen at the other end of the ice to force them into the kind of mistakes the Flyer defensemen had made in the first period. Almost before the words were out of his mouth the Flyers tied the score on a goal by Tom Bladon, a young defensemen, of all people, who had moved into the five-man rotation because of Ashbee's absence. Later in the period Philadelphia got what proved to be the game-winning goal by following the familiar Dornhoefer plan.
Dornhoefer plays right wing on MacLeish's line, but on this occasion once the puck entered the New York zone he forgot about everything else and skated to Giacomin's doorstep, where the welcome mat is never out. "I tried to keep him preoccupied," Dornhoefer said blithely. So there was Dornhoefer skate-to-skate with Giacomin, his blades practically in the crease, and there was MacLeish circling around with the puck. "Shoot! Shoot!" Dornhoefer yelled to MacLeish. Without looking, MacLeish fired the puck along the ice toward Dornhoefer, who opened his skates slightly and let the puck slide between them. Poor Giacomin never realized what had happened until the puck was behind him and the red light was on.
Two nights later in New York, Giacomin took a headsman's swing at Dornhoefer with his big goaltender's stick when the Flyer cruised behind the Ranger net. "You see me getting dumped, but you don't see Parent getting dumped," Giacomin said bitterly, indirectly indicting his teammates for not keeping the area around the net a New York preserve. "If no one else is going to move their guys out of my way, my 180 pounds will do it." To further demonstrate his irritation, Giacomin slashed Ross Lonsberry with his stick and threw punches at Lonsberry with his gloves. Giacomin was given two minor penalties, but he had staked his claim and the Flyers did not bother him the rest of the game.
Meanwhile the Flyers inexplicably forgot how they beat New York in Philadelphia, and the Rangers suddenly remembered to do what they had done so well in that first period at the Spectrum. This time they maintained their pressure on the Flyer defensemen throughout the game. "That Dupont always coughed the puck up when we made him think," Francis said. So did the other Philadelphia defensemen.
Still, it was a 1-1 game for two periods as both Giacomin and Parent foiled attack after attack, with Giacomin stopping Clarke on three occasions and Parent preventing a New York romp with two dozen saves, some of them astounding. Finally Ron Harris snapped a screened wrist shot past Parent from 35 feet away to put the Rangers ahead and send the series back to Philadelphia.
On Sunday, when it was over and the Flyers were packing for Boston and the final round of the cup against Bobby Orr and the rest of the Bruins, Harris was glumly pondering the Amtrak Series. He repeated something Pete Stemkowski had said: "If we had to play 78 games a year against the Flyers, we'd all retire after one season, because we'd be all worn out."